Zondervan, 2009 (Available in Australia at Koorong Books)
Well-known Christian apologist Greg Koukl here offers a popular-level approach to defending the faith. The California-based apologist has been arguing for the rationality of the Christian faith and helping believers make a stand for several decades now.
Those who have heard Koukl speak, or listened to his radio broadcasts, will not find much new material here. But for those of us who prefer the written word to the oral, this is a nice compilation of his methods and experiences.
All his effective methods for engaging with non-believers are featured here, including his well-known Columbo tactic. This refers to the American television detective, Lieutenant Columbo, who solved crimes and caught out criminals by the clever use of questioning.
Of course this method is at least as old as the Socratic Method, and as modern as the apologetics of Francis Schaeffer who sought to find the point of tension between a non-believer’s presuppositions and the real world. Koukl uses these methods to help believers offer an amicable but potent deconstruction of the non-believer’s worldviews.
The use of questions is helpful for a number of reasons. First, it is far less threatening and less combative than straight-out challenges or assertions. Also, it helps to get your non-Christian friend to think more carefully about his assumptions and beliefs. Also, it puts the burden on the non-believer to justify his or her beliefs.
Along with a detailed examination of such methods, Koukl offers plenty of personal stories and real-life examples. His is not simply a theoretical form of apologetics, but something that works quite well in everyday encounters. These stories help to flesh out the principles that Koukl is describing.
For example, take the suicide tactic, which deals with self-refuting views. In this method you simply help a person to see the logical inconsistencies of their own position. He mentions a debate he had with an unbeliever on the question of objective truth. Koukl of course argued the case that objective truth exists, while his opponent took the opposite case.
As his opponent presented an array of facts and arguments to make his case, it was easy for Koukl to point out the obvious: in denying that truth exists, he was using truth, logic and arguments to make his case. He simply refuted his own position, in other words. Koukl did not have to do anything other than to show the self-refuting nature of his opponent’s argument.
Or consider his encounter with a witch at a shop in Wisconsin. Noticing her pentagram, he asked her what it signified. When she said she was into Wicca, Koukl asked, ‘oh, so then you are against abortion?’, since they are supposed to respect all of life.
When she said no, he pressed her on this, again by the use of carefully placed questions. When she was pressed as to when it is right for a person to kill a baby, she mentioned the case of incest. Without directly challenging her, but by indirectly pointing out the silliness of her argument, he got her thinking:
“Hmm. Let me see if I understand. Let’s just say I had a two-year-old child standing next to me who had been conceived as a result of incest. On your view, it seems, I should have the liberty to kill her. Is that right?”
Koukl had simply driven her to the logical conclusion of her own premises. He exposed the weakness in her thinking, or “took the roof off” her worldview, as Koukl, following Schaeffer, calls it. In pressing ideas to their logical conclusion, we can demonstrate their absurdity or incoherence.
As it might be clear by now, much of this book is really just a simplified and popularised version of courses in logical thinking, and how to spot logical fallacies. The law of non-contradiction, for example, and various informal fallacies such as ad hominem, red herrings and straw men arguments, are all well known topics in logic which Koukl uses to good effect.
But what he has done is to explain these concepts in an easy to understand fashion, and provide numerous helpful illustrations and examples. But this is much more than a textbook in logical thinking. The aim of apologetics is of course to win people to the Gospel.
Apologetics is really just a type of pre-evangelism, dealing with people’s objections and misunderstandings of the faith. The aim as always is not just to win arguments but to win people.
But sometimes the only way a person can be won over is by dealing with his concerns and criticisms. This book helps every one of us in how to politely, winsomely yet powerfully deal with these various objections and questions, and help people see not just the shortcomings of their own worldviews, but the coherence and consistency of the Christian worldview.
As a popular-level, yet effective, resource on learning how to hold your own when dealing with non-believers, this is a most helpful volume indeed, and it deserves to be widely read.